Part 6

June 11, 1945 - July 3, 1945

The following are excerpts from Sec. of War Henry Stimson's diary and papers that have relevance to the atomic bombing of Japan. This is by no means a complete collection of such references from Stimson's diary and papers. These excerpts are published here with the authorization of the Yale University Library. The diary and papers can be found in the Henry Lewis Stimson Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn. The diary and papers can also be found in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC and in the Center For Research Libraries, Chicago, IL.

For information about the prior Henry Stimson diary and papers, click Stimson Diary and Papers, Part 1.

[I have included some explanatory and contextual comments for the excerpts. My writing is in brackets and italics, as I have done with this paragraph.]


June 11, 1945 Diary Entry:

"President Truman had sent me a letter which he had received from Herbert Hoover on the problems of the next campaign against Japan and has asked me for my opinion. I turned it over to the staff to get their reaction to it and had a talk both with [Gen. Thomas] Handy [the Army Deputy Chief of Staff] and with [Gen. George] Marshall [the Army Chief of Staff] on the subject."

[In this letter Hoover suggested an invasion of mainland Japan would cost "the lives of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American boys". General Marshall rejected this estimate on at least two occasions: in a June 4, 1945 report which stated: "the estimated loss of 500,000 lives due to carrying the war to conclusion under our present plan of campaign is considered to be entirely too high." and in a June 14, 1945 report, "the estimate of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American lives for carrying the war to a conclusion appears to deserve little consideration." (RG 107, Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Sec. of War Stimson ("Safe File") 1940-1945, Box 8, Folder: Japan (After Dec. 7/41), National Archives].

[Hoover also suggested in his letter that surrender might be possible due to "The desire of the Japanese to preserve the Mikado [the emperor] who is the spiritual head of the nation" (Ibid.)].

June 12, 1945 Diary Entry:

[Supreme Court Justice] "Felix Frankfurter plead for an interview at ten-thirty and came in and spent half an hour to tell me about the great Dane, Professor [Niels] Bohr [a Manhattan Project physicist], most of which I knew already. However he, Bohr, is a fine old fellow and I am willing to give some time to ease his worries. He made through Frankfurter some good suggestions too on which I called in [Stimson's assistant Harvey] Bundy and got them injected into our plans on S-1."

[Bohr was one of the first to realize the importance of international control of nuclear weapons. In Bohr's 1944 meetings with FDR and Churchill, he failed to convince them to talk with Russia about international control of nuclear weapons before the a-bomb was used. Bohr felt that if the U.S. and Great Britain did not tell Russia of the a-bomb until after it was used, the attempt to hide the bomb from Russia plus the use of the bomb would appear threatening to the Russians. The result, Bohr feared, could be a nuclear arms race and increased chances of a nuclear war.]

June 18, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I also had a short conference with General [Leslie] Groves [the general in charge of the Manhattan Project] and Harvey Bundy as to the progress of matters in S-1 and at three thirty in the afternoon I went to the White House and attended a most important meeting of the President with the Chiefs of Staff, only [Sec. of the Navy James] Forrestal, [Assistant Sec. of War John] McCloy, and I being present besides the Chiefs of Staff. The Chiefs of Staff presented their views of the plans for the campaign against Japan and on the President's request I gave my views on the big political question lying apart from the military plans, namely as to whether we had grounds for thinking that there was a liberal-minded section of the Japanese people with whom we can make proper terms for the future life of Japan. I spoke very briefly of my relations with some of the Japanese leaders and told the President that I should like to give him more fully my views at some other time."

[The night before the June 18 meeting, McCloy and Stimson had discussed alternatives to invading Japan. But on the 18th Stimson was ill and said little at the meeting. So McCloy said what they had discussed the previous night, that the U.S. should tell Japan they could keep their emperor if they surrendered, and that otherwise we would use the atomic bomb (see John McCloy's June 18 suggestions).]

June 19, 1945 Diary Entry:

"We had a good meeting of the Committee of Three [heads of the State, War, and Navy departments] although unfortunately Forrestal was absent at a meeting on the Hill [at the Capitol Building], but [Acting Sec. of State Joseph] Grew, [Under Sec. of the Navy Artemus] Gates, and myself were there together with McCloy and [Special Assistant to the Sec. of the Navy Major Mathias] Correa in attendance. I took up the question as to what position the three Departments should take on what you might call the civil military questions of the war against Japan. The Chiefs of Staff had taken their position at the meeting on Monday [the above mentioned June 18 meeting], and Forrestal and I have agreed to it as far as the purely military side of it goes. But there was a pretty strong feeling that it would be deplorable if we have to go through the military program with all its stubborn fighting to a finish. We agreed that it is necessary now to plan and prepare to go through [with an invasion of mainland Japan], but it became very evident today in the discussion that we all feel that some way should be found of inducing Japan to yield without a fight to the finish and that was the subject of the discussion today. Grew read us a recent report he had made to the President on the subject in which he strongly advocated a new warning to Japan as soon as Okinawa has fallen, but apparently that does not meet with the President's plans in respect to the coming meeting with Churchill and Stalin [at Potsdam, Germany. Truman wanted to meet with them before issuing a warning to Japan to surrender]. My only fixed date is the last chance warning which must be given before an actual landing of the ground forces on Japan [scheduled for Nov. 1, 1945], and fortunately the plans provide for enough time to bring in the sanctions to our warning in the shape of heavy ordinary bombing attack and an attack of S-1."

"I had a talk with Marshall after the meeting of the Committee of Three this morning and went over it [the warning to Japan to surrender] with him. He is suggesting an additional sanction to our warning in the shape of an entry by the Russians into the war [Russia was preparing to enter the Pacific War by Aug. 8, 1945]. That would certainly coordinate all the threats possible to Japan. In the afternoon I did a little reading on the subject and started the dictation of a memorandum to the President." [Stimson presented his memorandum, along with the Potsdam Proclamation surrender warning, to Truman on July 2, 1945; there will be more on this below.]

"I went home for lunch and during the day I had several talks with McCloy over the Japanese question." [Probably in relation to his memorandum of the previous paragraph.]

June 20 to 24, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I lunched with Bundy on S-1 matters [Harvey Bundy was his main atomic bomb advisor] and talked with McCloy in regard to plans for the war on Japan."

"I talked with [Acting Interim Committee Chairman George] Harrison both on Thursday and Friday [June 21-22] in regard to S-1 and the work of the Interim Committee which was meeting in Washington [on June 21; Stimson was out of town and missed the meeting]. They had some strong recommendations to make in respect to the relations with Russia and after thinking them over I called up Harrison and asked him to get hold of the two leaders of the new proposal and have a draft made of what they thought ought to be said in time for me when I got back Monday and he said he would do so."

[At the June 21st meeting, the Interim Committee took the advice of the Scientific Panel and recommended that at the upcoming Potsdam conference President Truman should tell Russia we were working on the atomic bomb. This was a reversal of the Interim Committee's May 31st recommendation that Russia should not be told of the a-bomb before its use on Japan.]

June 25, 1945 Diary Entry:

"At eleven o'clock Sir Henry Wilson [head of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington] came in bringing me a hitherto unseen paper on S-1 which was signed by Roosevelt and Churchill at Hyde Park on the latter's last visit there I believe. The Roosevelt duplicate has evidently been mislaid among Mr. Roosevelt's papers, so this was the only one available. It, however, did not bring any bombshell. I called in Bundy and Roger Makins of the British Embassy who were outside and we all four discussed the matter together, together with future plans for the S-1 test."

[The Hyde Park Aide-Memoire of Sept. 18, 1944 included Roosevelt and Churchill's agreement to possibly use the atomic bomb: "when a 'bomb' is finally available, it might perhaps, after mature consideration, be used against the Japanese". (Manhattan Engineering District Records, Harrison-Bundy Files, RG 77, microfilm M1108, Roll 3, File 37, National Archives; see also Martin Sherwin, A World Destroyed, pg. 284).]

"At twelve I commenced a talk with Harrison and Bundy over our coming problems in S-1, and at lunchtime McCloy came in and we four lunched together in my room. McCloy told us about his recent talk with [advisor to the President] Harry Hopkins and what the latter had reported of his recent visit to Moscow and his talks with Stalin. Altogether we had rather a busy morning."

[In Stalin's meetings with Hopkins, Stalin reaffirmed the agreement made at the Yalta Conference that Russia would enter the war against Japan on Aug. 8, 1945 provided that agreements with China had been completed.]

June 26 to 30, 1945 Diary Entry:

"At the meeting this morning of the Committee of Three, Forrestal, Grew and I were present with McCloy as recorder and Correa as legal adviser for the Navy. I took up at once the subject of trying to get Japan to surrender by giving her a warning after she had been sufficiently pounded possibly with S-1. This is a matter about which I feel very strongly and feel the country will not be satisfied unless every effort is made to shorten the war. I had made a draft of a letter to the President on the subject and I read this to the Committee and a long thorough discussion followed. When we got through, both Forrestal and Grew said that they approved of the proposed step and the general substance of the letter. We then appointed a sub-committee consisting of McCloy for the War Department, [State Dept. Japan experts Eugene] Dooman and [Joseph] Ballantine for the State Department, and Correa for the Navy, to draft an actual [surrender] warning to be sent [to Japan] when the time came."

[Stimson's "draft of a letter" on June 26 was called "Proposed Program for Japan". It contained Stimson's argument that a warning to surrender should be given to Japan, in the hope of avoiding an invasion of the Japanese mainland. It also listed items to be included in the warning. Among them was Stimson's recommendation:]

"I personally think that if in saying this we should add that we do not exclude a constitutional monarchy [the emperor] under her present dynasty, it would substantially add to the chances of acceptance."

"Most of the rest of the day [June 26] was spent in preparation for my coming talk with the President next Monday [July 2]. I talked with Harrison and Bundy in regard to S-1 and with McCloy on matters of Germany and other matters."

[July 2 was the day Stimson would tell President Truman about his surrender warning for Japan. The surrender warning came to be known as the Potsdam Proclamation. The matters Stimson talked about with Harrison and Bundy may have included Harrison's June 26, 1945 memo to Stimson. This memo pointed out that the Franck Report (written by some of the Manhattan Project scientists) warned that using the a-bomb in WWII would hurt the chances of achieving international control of nuclear weapons and of avoiding a nuclear war. The June 26 memo also discussed the Scientific Panel's recommendation to use the a-bomb to save lives in WWII. It also noted that the Scientific Panel felt Russia should be told about the a-bomb project, without giving them technical information, before the a-bomb was used. The Scientific Panel felt this would aid in achieving international control of the weapon. (Manhattan Engineering District Records, Harrison-Bundy Files, RG 77, microfilm M1108, Roll 6, File 77, National Archives)]

"I then spent Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday [June 27 thru 30] at Highhold [Stimson's estate on Long Island]. During that time I had a good deal to do in preparing for my important talks with the President which are coming on the subject of the Japanese war and the treatment of conquered Germany. McCloy was at work in Washington preparing the warning for Japan and finally sent it out to me by courier, and on Saturday appeared himself at Highhold where he and I went over the draft which had been prepared by the Committee [McCloy, Dooman, Ballantine, and Correa] very carefully making a good many modifications in it."

"So I was pretty busy during the three or four days that I was away and rather profitably busy for I had a chance to think out my position in regard to these matters both of which are of immediate importance. Among other papers I received proposed papers on S-1 which had been prepared by the Interim Committee and were sent up to me by courier." [The "proposed papers" may have been the notes from the June 21 Interim Committee meeting, which Stimson did not attend, or Interim Committee member Ralph Bard's alternative to using the atomic bomb, or Harrison's above mentioned June 26 memo.]

July 1, 1945 Diary Entry:

"On Sunday [July 1] I returned to Washington... I took dinner at the house and then saw Harvey Bundy afterwards and talked over with him matters relating to S-1."

July 2, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I got started very early with an interview with General Groves, Harvey Bundy, and Harrison and McCloy in preparation for my appointment with the President."

"At eleven o'clock I went to the White House, telling the President I had two important subjects I wanted to talk with him about; one, our plans in regard to Japan, and the other our treatment of Germany. He was very agreeable to both and said that he was troubled over both of them and wanted my views. I then took out this bunch of papers which I had been preparing during the past week and started on the problem of, first, whether it was worthwhile to try to warn Japan into surrender. The President read my memorandum to him which we [Stimson, Grew, and Forrestal] had discussed last Tuesday at the Committee of Three and evidently was impressed with it. A copy is attached hereto. He also examined the draft warning which, as I pointed out, was merely a tentative draft and necessarily could not be completed until we knew what was going to be done with S-1. I also showed him the draft which had been prepared by the Interim Committee for a Presidential statement after the first bomb is dropped on Japan. This he read carefully. I then went into the subject of the attitude of the members of the Interim Committee on our attitude towards Russia in respect to S-1. By this time my allotted time was approaching its end and people were fretting at the door. The President told me that these matters were so important that he wanted me to come again tomorrow when we would have plenty of time to finish them. I told him in a word of the importance of time in respect to both of these matters in their relation to his coming trip abroad and his conference with Stalin and Churchill." [This refers to the Potsdam Conference in Germany. Truman left for the conference on July 6.]

[The NUCLEAR FILES ARCHIVE has a copy of Stimson's above mentioned July 2 documents at Stimson's Draft Proclamation to Japan]

"His [President Truman's] attitude throughout was apparently very well satisfied with the way in which the subjects were presented and he was apparently acquiescent with my attitude toward the treatment of Japan and pronounced the paper which I had written as a very powerful paper."

"I regard these two subjects, viz: the effort to shorten the Japanese war by a surrender and the proper handling of Germany so as not to create such harshness in seeking vengeance as to make it impossible to lay the foundations of a new Germany which will be a proper member of the family of nations, as two of the largest and most important problems that I have had since I have been here. In the first one I have to meet and overcome the zeal of the soldier, and in the second the zeal of the Jewish American statesman seeking for vengeance. And in both cases I have to meet the feeling of war passion and hysteria which seizes hold of a nation like ours in the prosecution of such a bitter war. The President so far has struck me as a man who is trying hard to keep his balance. He certainly has been very receptive to all my efforts in these directions."

[This is an interesting insight from Stimson as to what he was up against: in addition to fighting Japan he also had to fight against "war passion and hysteria" in the U.S.]

"I... came home to Woodley [Stimson's home in Washington, D.C.] for dinner at seven-thirty with Harvey Bundy. ...We sat out on the porch talking over matters related to S-1 until he went home and I went to bed."

July 3, 1945 Diary Entry:

"I had luncheon with [Assistant Sec. of War for Air Robert] Lovett and finally went over to my new conference with the President at two forty-five. For almost the first time since my contact with him the President was late for his conference. But a lot of people had come in evidently with various chickenfeed, and he got through with all of them first. Then at about a quarter past three he came out from his office room to the antechamber where I was sitting and said 'Now I am all through; you come in and you can stay as long as you like'. Well, we sat down and I just talked to him without notes. I told him that these two subjects on which I had come to see him were subjects which couldn't be talked over on the machinegun style, but it was more the kind of thing that ought to be talked over a fire, at the fireside in the evening, or when we had plenty of time. I then finished up what was left unfinished the day before in respect to S-1. That was the question of what the President should do to Stalin at this coming conference, and I finally summed it up informally that he should look sharp and, if he found that he thought that Stalin was on good enough terms with him, he should shoot off at him what we had arranged, George Harrison and I, in the aide memoire. In other words, simply telling him that we were busy with this thing working like the dickens and we knew he was busy with this thing and working like the dickens, and that we were pretty nearly ready and we intended to use it against the enemy, Japan; that if it was satisfactory we proposed to then talk it over with Stalin afterwards, with the purpose of having it make the world peaceful and safe rather than to destroy civilization. If he pressed for details and facts, Truman was simply to tell him that we were not yet prepared to give them. The President listened attentively and then said that he understood and he thought that was the best way to do it."

To continue reading Henry Stimson's diary and papers, click Part 7.

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